Her first kitten…

orange kitten

Orange Kitten

A 13-year-old girl who loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian is going to adopt her first companion animal, a kitten—or kittens, if she has her way. How many of us got our start with companion animals just like that, pre-teens or young teenagers who loved animals and wanted to be veterinarians, and our parents appeased us by adopting a shelter animal?

And are you one of the many who was given a kitten or a puppy as a gift in childhood? If you’re anything like me, that animal made all animals a permanent part of your life.

I rarely travel, and one of the things I look forward to is meeting new people and seeing new things all the way, on this trip from the time I left the house in the pre-dawn darkness to catch the train until the time I arrived back home late at night four days later to greet my startled cats who were apparently looking for me the entire time.

On my way back  I overheard a conversation between one of two young girls seated behind me and an older woman across the aisle from them. It was just part of the buzz around me as we all settled in until I heard the word “kitten” my ears pricked up and swiveled around as much as a human’s can do.

Lucy With Rug 1

Lucy with Rug 1

In a minute or two I confirmed that a kitten adoption was planned over the coming week. Much as I like to meet new people and converse among the seats, I also prefer to give people their privacy when they are in a conversation amongst themselves, but I couldn’t resist.

I slid toward the end of the seat next to me, leaned back a little and caught the eye of the woman who was apparently the mother who had planned this. She smiled at me so I felt it safe to enter the conversation.

“Is someone adopting a kitten?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mom, “my daughter loves animals and wants to be a veterinarian, and I’m moving to a place where we can have a cat for her. She’s never had a pet, and she’s so excited!”

Lucy With Rug 2

Lucy With Rug 2

13-year-old girls are way too cool to show excitement. When I looked around my seat to the one behind me, she glanced up from her computer game, just moved her eyelids and nothing else, and nodded. I smiled.

“I probably wouldn’t interrupt your conversation, but…” I briefly described my credentials as a cat lady, making myself out to be a professional on the subject of cats instead of just the crazy cat lady who was crocheting a hat in the seat ahead of them, which was also true.

Mom was glad to have someone to ask questions. I was glad to share the enthusiasm I always had for discussing cats and the information I’d learned over the past 40 years of living with cats. Teenage daughter played her computer game but listened, I could tell.

I asked for the details of how they were adopting and when, how old the kitten was, if they had things ready and what their daily schedule was like to see what information I could offer them, and answering Mom’s questions.

Lucy With Rug 3

Lucy With Rug 3

As it turned out, the kitten was one of a litter taken in to a shelter in Harrisburg. They had visited the shelter weeks ago and met this kitten and others and decided on this one and possibly a sibling, but had to wait until they had most of their vaccinations and been spayed or neutered. The kitten would be eight to ten weeks at going home, just at the beginning of that growth spurt and ready to raise ruckus as young kittens are programmed to do.

I told them that kittens at that age had a lot of energy and no common sense, and so they had to plan for the kitten to be very playful, but also likely to get into trouble without intending by climbing into or onto places that might be dangerous, scratching things it shouldn’t, and even playing rough with the humans.

kittens wrestling on the floor

Two of the Fantastic Four wrestling.

And, since the kitten would be home alone all day and even overnight later I told them that two kittens would be a better idea since the kittens would keep each other company during the day, beating each other up instead of getting into trouble while alone.

“Kittens are often misinterpreted as being ‘bad’ and sent back to the shelter because people don’t understand that during those weeks of development from toddler to teenager in human terms, they have to play hard to build muscles and coordination, to explore to develop their senses,” I said, or some variation on that. Kittens develop very quickly, and by sixteen weeks can be completely independent and even sexually mature—all this learning has to happen before that, even if they’ll never use it to kill live prey, defend themselves or mate or give birth.

A good bit of discipline, then, depends on understanding what the kittens are doing, and if necessary redirecting the energy into something more appropriate. I could imagine two little kittens ripping through the house they were describing.

“Little, little kittens can climb into places where you might not even fit your hand,” I said, “and even bigger kittens can get themselves into a mess, so check for everything they can get in to, because they will. And don’t be afraid to confine them to one room for portions of the day for their own safety, while you are away or while you are eating or cooking,” I continued.

Mewsette on Scratcher

Sunshine on Scratcher

Thinking of the teenager who I knew was listening and might be one of the few to actually go on and graduate as a veterinarian, I explained that all cats scratch things because they leave their scent from scent glands in their paws, they groom their claws, removing old layers of cuticle, and they stretch full-length and exercise their muscles. Just figure they’re going to scratch things, give them things to scratch that they like, put them where they’ll use them and usually they’ll just gravitate to what you’ve provided because it’s so convenient and not bother with anything else.

“I’ve used a lot of the cardboard scratchers that just sit around on the floor because the cats and kittens can step right up onto them and they immediately start to scratch when they feel that rough texture beneath their paws,” I said, adding that having at least one in every room is probably what saved my furniture along with a regular carpeted scratching post and a cat tree I’d gathered over the years. “They like rough surfaces—think tree bark,” I added.

black kitten with catnip toy

Giuseppe meets catnip.

“Remember that they think you are big cats, too, and they are going to try to play with you as if you really are just another cat,” I continued. “Don’t fall for it. Touching them is for affection, not wrestling. Never play with them directly with your hand or they’ll think your hand is one of their toys. If they want to wrestle, grab a plush toy and let them tackle that. Teach the little boys (her two young sons) to drag the sturdy string toys around for the kittens to chase, it’ll be a lot more fun for the boys anyway.”

Make sure the litter box is convenient, on the same floor and only one or two rooms away at any given time. Once kittens are litter trained it’s usually permanent, but if they have to go and can’t find the box quickly, they’ll find the next best thing, usually a spot that’s inconvenient to you.

Make sure food and water are always available, too. Kittens need a high-protein diet because of their rate of growth, and unless they are somehow ill they will eat and drink as much as they need to as long as it’s available. But keep the litterbox and the food bowl in separate rooms, if possible, or at least far enough away that the two won’t mix.

I know I offered many more little points in the guise of anecdotes and stories from my own and others’ experience, but finally it seemed as if they had all the information they could hold for one session. I asked the daughter if she had any ideas for names. She said she had lots of ideas but didn’t divulge any, meaning she probably thought I wouldn’t know who or what she was talking about, which was highly likely.

Fromage in Motion

Fromage in Motion

She and her friend got up and went to the dining car, and I had the opportunity to say to her mom what I had just been thinking, remembering about my own first kitten: “Just think of all the years of her life this cat will see, through her teenage years and high school, she might go off to college and leave the cat with you, but the cat will be there for her when she comes home to visit, or she may take it with her when she gets her own place. She could be into her 30s before she loses it. All those important years of her life shared with this one cat you are about to bring home….”

“Wow,” said her mother, “that’s right, cats live a long time and she could be married with her own children by that time.”

Her daughter returned and she pointed this out to her, to little response, but again the glance and the nod. She had to be cool in front of her friend.

Mom had to take a call from her office, even though it was Sunday and we were on the train, and there the conversation ended until they left the train halfway to my destination, when we said goodbye and good luck.

a photo of Bootsie, the gray and white cat I had growing up

My first cat, Bootsie photo © B.E. Kazmarski

I was left thinking about all the years I’d spent with cats, from Bootsie, my first cat, to those who are with me now, I’ve measured eras in cat lives. I enjoyed the thought of a responsible adult and a caring young woman adopting a shelter kitten, and hoped it brought many happy endings for the people and for those cats, and for other animals each of those children would encounter or adopt later in life, and even for other people, as we know that children learn important interpersonal lessons from animals.

And what a joy for the opportunity to share the knowledge I’d both observed and intentionally learned over the years, gleaned from both the happy and the sad events and memories. Isn’t that what I do every day through my writing and art so I can do my part to make life better for cats and all animals and the people who love them, and give people images and a voice to describe how they feel about their animal companions?

But for now, I’ll still think of the household with one or two new kittens, whichever they decided, and picture the girl with her tabby and the little boys running around with strings for the kittens to chase. It’s a very happy thought.

I’ll soon be telling the story of the orange kitten at the top of this article—another magical rescue story. All the other photos are of Lucy, Fromage and the Fantastic Four and other kittens you may have seen in my articles, but I hadn’t realized such a trend in black kittens in my house in the past several years. I’ll have to dig out those prints on film from earlier litters!

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All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

In fact, the world does revolve around me.

black cat behind curtain

Fromage being elusive and mysterious.

I had a chance to visit with Fromage, the neonatal kitten I fostered in 2009, a tiny kitten screeching for food and comfort somehow lost and found in an abandoned lot during the struggles of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. I took the photo above about a week after she arrived, but the photos in the article below were from her first few days. So much happened in a short time: she arrived three months after I lost Namir, Dickie came to live with us for a year a few weeks after she arrived, and the Fantastic Four had their first taste of fostering a kitten—and taught me a lesson in nurturing, that it’s best done by one, or four, of your own kind! She’s all grown up now at 3 and I still get to visit her. The other articles are linked below; enjoy watching her grow up!

Fromage on Day One--in my house, at least!

Little, little kittens fascinate me. A miniature that can easily fit in my outstretched hand with a Hello Kitty head and stubby legs sits and licks the side of her paw then swipes it across her face, though she sways perilously from side to side with the effort.

As soon as their eyes have barely opened at ten days to two weeks of age every moment is spent building skills and coordination, gathering knowledge out of the air and fearlessly exploring their surroundings and conquering the errant toy or human foot that gets in their way. They never worry about falling down or making mistakes or looking stupid.

By six weeks they can climb a scratching post, run faster than you, chase and kill a small insect or even a tiny animal if necessary, give themselves a complete bath and get into more trouble than you can imagine because they have yet to develop any common sense.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

I am fostering a very young kitten for the first time in many, many years. She came in at about two weeks of age, fitting herself from nose to rump easily on the length of my hand, her eyes open but that cloudy blue gray that still doesn’t focus. A friend’s daughter heard her at night, tangled in brambles in a city lot, squeaking with a volume hard to believe in something that weighed just a few ounces. Her little life depended on that volume, though, and her persistence and vocal skill paid off in her rescue and is typically indicative of a cat with a strong will to live, able to face down most ills that may befall her through the rest of her life.

That early audaciousness has translated into an easy adaptability and an outgoing, affectionate personality, even in less than a week. At about three weeks old she had doubled her entry weight, at least by my little postal scale, was a little longer than my outstretched hand, her legs had grown so she was at least off the floor, her eyes were clear and her pupils reacted to light, and she was ready for action.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn't damage her young eyes.

At this age she is considered “neo-natal”, not newborn but still recently-born and needing some critical nurturing. Her body was really too young to digest solid food at first, so I purchased kitten formula and a tiny bottle with miniature nipples to fit on the top. She was confused by the bottle, which did not feel like Mom, so I put a few drops of formula on the inside of my arm and got her little face in it. It had warmed to my skin temperature and she began lapping immediately and kneading my arm. I slipped the nipple of the bottle toward her tongue and squeezed a little more formula onto my arm, and eventually she got the connection and finally nursed from the bottle for a little but mostly from the crook of my arm and then from a shallow dish.

It took one session to recognize the cloth I put on my lap when I fed her. She danced and squeaked and climbed all over me as I sat down on the floor with her formula.

Good girl!

Her little digestive system also needs “stimulation” in order to be able to eliminate, as her mom would lick her in strategic areas to make sure what goes in comes out; this is accomplished by me with a warm, damp rag. Because I was already handling her already I simply put her in the litterbox when she was ready to go. On her second day here she got in the box herself, the little one I set up for her like a potty chair next to the big adult litterbox.

Scratching around in the big girl box.

In just a few days both the warm damp rag and the little girl litterbox were history because she decided she was a big girl and would use the big girl litterbox, and she didn’t need any help. The third time she got in the box she began scratching around in the litter first. How the heck did she learn that?! Scratching in the litter before elimination and burying afterward are instinctive, plus most kittens imitate their mother if she’s around, but the last litter of kittens had their mom, Mimi, an excellent momcat, and still I don’t remember them using the box that successfully or that young.

At the beginning the formula seemed to satisfy her. By the end of the week she was squeaking that it just wasn’t enough so I got food appropriate for her age and introduced her to it. She barely said hello to it before she was gobbling it down, then lapping formula out of a dish. In just a few days she had no interest in the formula at all but ate her canned food mixed with formula and then with plain water, purring and talking as she ate.

She also knows the direction in which I disappear and presses her little nose in the crack between the bifold doors to the bathroom to call for me. After a few days I saw her little paw on the edge of the door giving it a shove. Oh, no, not already! I have a hook and eye to hold it closed, but if she learns that fast she’s going to be a terror.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Who is that kitten! Fromage sees her reflection in the trash can.

Now at about four weeks her little squeaks of “ee-ee-ee” have matured into a more recognizable “mew-mew-mew”, her eyes are shading to green and she’s begun to pin back her ears and flap her little tail and run around the bathroom with great speed and coordination, climb what she can and stalk and ambush me, crouching beside the mint green toilet on the white tile floor where I’ll never notice a fuzzy black kitten.

This is all happening too fast. In her four weeks she’s gone from zero to small cat with no signs of stopping. Just in the two weeks she’s been with me she’s transformed from helpless squeaking fuzzball to capable kitten, formula to real food, pee on the floor to proper litterbox use. She has a big personality and I can see the type of adult she’ll become, friendly and outgoing, audacious and playful, that same will that saved her life also making sure that she is the center of attention wherever she goes.

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

She moves too fast, waving herself around to get me to rub her belly!

I sit on the floor and let her run all over me. She climbs my shirt and plays with my chin, then she runs onto my outstretched legs, flops herself down in some nook, rolls over on her back and waves her little paws in the air, waiting for me to rub her belly. She then gets up and walks the length of my legs to my feet and climbs up onto my toes where she precariously balances.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

Doing the Kitten Dance.

After this gymnastic effort she leaps off my legs and does a few laps around the bathroom, stops to pin back her ears and arch her back and tail and do the little sideways dance that always cracks me up when kittens do this, eventually coming back to my lap and starting over.

I worry that she doesn’t have a buddy to wrestle with. They need to develop those muscles and coordination and social skills, but all she’s got is me. It’s not a good idea to use your hand to wrestle with a kitten because they usually grow to learn that human hands are toys and anyone can conclude that’s not a good idea when kitty gets bigger. I have plush toys that I hold in my hand when she wants to wrestle with me, and when she’s a little bigger and I won’t worry so much about her falling I’ll add a slanted scratching pad to her toys so she can climb and a few little cardboard boxes she can jump into.

Fromage beats up her plush toy instead of my hand!

This is the first time I haven’t had any of the nurturing kitties who took over fostering little ones as they got older and needed to learn big cat things. I relied on especially Moses and Stanley to teach the kitten important lessons, even if that meant Stanley playing soccer with the kitten, using the kitten as the soccer ball. Right now, Fromage is sleeping in the special “kitten bed”, the one I purchased for a long-ago kitty who helped me to foster kittens and all the kitties who have used it since then. Added in the bed are the small pillow with the gray kitty face that was Moses’ bed, and underneath that is Stanley ’s infamous pink sweater. Mimi’s Children slept in this bed, cuddled in the memories of all the other rescues who’ve lived with me, and Fromage returns to this bed frequently, so I guess they are still doing their magic.

Fromage rolls back and forth and plays with two toys at once.

I’ve been lucky Fromage has been healthy and progressed normally; I’ve fostered others orphaned young who had so many health issues it was hard to treat them all, upper respiratory infections, parasites, injuries, infections, all of them life-threatening, hard to believe something that little could fight off that much. But wherever Fromage emerged from she didn’t encounter any of the usual orphaned kitten illnesses or they would have evidenced by now. The bigger illnesses—I guess we’ll see later. Fromage certainly seems to be in control of her destiny, and perhaps that will keep her protected through the rest of her life.

And where did she get that name? The night my friend took her in and called me to ask what to do when she didn’t eat canned food, I told her to offer the kitten anything she would eat just to get something in her. Fromage chose a quality brie as her meal, so she was named the French word for “cheese”.

Other stories about Fromage:

A Little Life Saved

An Update on Fromage, My Little Foster Kitty

Visiting Feline Nieces and Nephews

Fromage Being Cute

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


A Little Baby Foster Kitten

Fromage with her ball and formula splashed across her nose.

In fact, the world does revolve around me.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since a friend brought little Fromage to me, a tiny kitten screeching for food and comfort somehow lost and found in an abandoned lot during the struggles of the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh in 2009. I took the photo above about a week after she arrived, but the photos in the article below were from her first few days. So much happened in a short time: she arrived three months after I lost Namir, Dickie came to live with us for a year a few weeks after she arrived, and the Fantastic Four had their first taste of fostering a kitten—and taught me a lesson in nurturing, that it’s best done by one, or four, of your own kind! She’s all grown up now at 2, so she thinks, and I still get to visit her. The other articles are linked below; enjoy watching her grow up!

Fromage on Day One--in my house, at least!

Little, little kittens fascinate me. A miniature that can easily fit in my outstretched hand with a Hello Kitty head and stubby legs sits and licks the side of her paw then swipes it across her face, though she sways perilously from side to side with the effort.

As soon as their eyes have barely opened at ten days to two weeks of age every moment is spent building skills and coordination, gathering knowledge out of the air and fearlessly exploring their surroundings and conquering the errant toy or human foot that gets in their way. They never worry about falling down or making mistakes or looking stupid.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

Fromage attempts to talk to Basement Cat.

By six weeks they can climb a scratching post, run faster than you, chase and kill a small insect or even a tiny animal if necessary, give themselves a complete bath and get into more trouble than you can imagine because they have yet to develop any common sense.

I am fostering a very young kitten for the first time in many, many years. She came in at about two weeks of age, fitting herself from nose to rump easily on the length of my hand, her eyes open but that cloudy blue gray that still doesn’t focus. A friend’s daughter heard her at night, tangled in brambles in a city lot, squeaking with a volume hard to believe in something that weighed just a few ounces. Her little life depended on that volume, though, and her persistence and vocal skill paid off in her rescue and is typically indicative of a cat with a strong will to live, able to face down most ills that may befall her through the rest of her life.

That early audaciousness has translated into an easy adaptability and an outgoing, affectionate personality, even in less than a week. At about three weeks old she had doubled her entry weight, at least by my little postal scale, was a little longer than my outstretched hand, her legs had grown so she was at least off the floor, her eyes were clear and her pupils reacted to light, and she was ready for action.

Fromage gets lost in one of my skirts. I hope it doesn't damage her young eyes.

At this age she is considered “neo-natal”, not newborn but still recently-born and needing some critical nurturing. Her body was really too young to digest solid food at first, so I purchased kitten formula and a tiny bottle with miniature nipples to fit on the top. She was confused by the bottle, which did not feel like Mom, so I put a few drops of formula on the inside of my arm and got her little face in it. It had warmed to my skin temperature and she began lapping immediately and kneading my arm. I slipped the nipple of the bottle toward her tongue and squeezed a little more formula onto my arm, and eventually she got the connection and finally nursed from the bottle for a little but mostly from the crook of my arm and then from a shallow dish.

It took one session to recognize the cloth I put on my lap when I fed her. She danced and squeaked and climbed all over me as I sat down on the floor with her formula.

Read the rest of this entry »


From Little Bitty Fuzzballs…

four newborn kittens

A four-kitten pile-up.

…to sassy tweens…

kittens in cat bed

From top, Mewsette, Jelly Bean, Giuseppe (with the green paint on his ear), Mr. Sunshine.

…to medium-sized sleek and agile teens…

four black cats on the rocker

Everybody on the Rocker

…to full-grown graceful and loving adults…

four black cats

The Fantastic Four on August 16, 2011, all grown up.

…they’ve always been best friends! I can’t get enough of watching them together.


Mimi, Mewsing

photo of black cat looking out window

Mimi, Mewsing

Something about the light today brings back a memory…something about the time before I came here.

How long have I been here? It seems like forever, but I know it hasn’t been because I lived out there, out in the street I’m looking at, out there in all kinds of weather with noisy cars and kids after me, and I had all those babies…

That’s it, this time four years ago I was pregnant again. Which litter? I don’t remember…

These four big black cats, my children, didn’t exist yet, but I was near to giving birth, it was hot and they were getting big and heavy, my belly was nearly dragging on the ground. It was the only thing I didn’t like about childbirth then, those last few weeks when I was a real whale of a cat, otherwise it was as easy as eating dinner…I can hardly remember what it felt like to be pregnant now.

photo of garden with black cat

Garden With Maia

I came over here, I was always in this yard, hunting, there was so much here, and it was so quiet and peaceful, no big dogs barking, though the dogs were always nice to me…no people arguing or loud TVs or music. I just liked to sit in the garden, but the lady usually chased me away, something about not wanting me to hunt here.

…all the cats in the windows always looked so happy. I would talk to them now and then, Kelly or Cookie or Sophie at the basement door…funny to think that now they’re my sisters. They told me it was very nice inside, quiet, the lady was home most of the time and she loved each of them more than anything, she was like that. Everyone got special care, the food was good food. They had to stay inside…I really loved being outside, but I might be able to live without frozen paws and being chased by tomcats. I wouldn’t mind sitting at that screened basement door if it meant peace and quiet and good food.

black cat with plastic collar

Mimi with Collar

But I always pictured myself carrying another litter of kittens in my belly, and it’s really odd how…no matter how hard I try…I can remember some parts of it, but it’s like it happened to another kitty, all those babies…and all that catting around. I have no urge to do that now, wonder what happened? I think it had something to do with that awful cutting and stapling and that horrible plastic cup on my head…really, I just about changed my mind with that, Mewsette was the only thing that kept me from heading for the door and sneaking out, and I would have done it, no kitty was better than me at sneaking out.

I know that one of my daughters lived here because I saw her at the window and talked to her at the basement door too, but she wasn’t here when I came in…I didn’t really understand what happened with her, but I felt that daughter calling me, telling me to come over here, to get this lady’s attention. I did know this human was very sad about something, I could feel it coming from her whenever I was near—all of us animals could, even the senseless chipmunks—even before I came in. She changed too, that’s right, she quit chasing me out of the yard and started talking to me now and then. And it did have something to do with that daughter…

And before I knew it I was inside. Okay, I remember now, I was in the box with my newborns, then the lid closed and we were apparently up in the air, then voices, then the box was set down…the flaps opened in a little square and there was the lady looking at me. It was quiet and cool, she opened the flaps and I looked around. I was…in her house. Why? Now I know, now that I’m here, but I was totally confused.

photo of black cat on drawing table

Mimi on Drawing Table, with Lucy's Rainbows

I felt that other daughter around and looked for her and so did my new mom, but I knew then she was in the rainbows that flowed across the walls and floor from the crystal in the window, spinning slowly for no apparent reason.

Life is truly magical.

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Read more about Mimi’s mystery daughter, Lucy:

Lucy and I Fought the Good Fight

Lucy Inspires a Book

Meet Lucy!

And a little more about Mimi:

Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

Mimi’s 2006 Children: Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal

Mimi’s Introduces Giuseppe, Mr. Sunshine, Jelly Bean and Mewsette


Three Kittens in a Jim Beam Box

three kittens in box

These kittens were dropped off at Ohiopyle State Park.

…dropped off at the Train Station near Ohiopyle State Park. Apparently the heartless –#$%^&!– who dropped them off thought they were doing them a favor, and they may have considering some of the other possibilities.

The note with the photo on the Ohiopyle State Park Facebook page says:

Three more kittens dropped off in a Jim Beam box at the Train Station. Thankfully we got to them before the storm came through. A fourth was seen crawling out of the box but we couldn’t find it. Call the park office at 724-329-8591 to adopt or SPCA will be picking them up sometime tomorrow.


Mimi, on “Mother’s Day”

photo of black cat in the sun

Mimi on Mother's Day

Mimi’s annual Mother’s Day address

Sì, Mi chiamano Mimì, …

That’s my famous self-introduction, “Yes, they always call me Mimi…” Or, rather, that of the character after whom my rescue mom named me, the female lead in the Puccini opera La Boheme, the day I entered her household, forever.

Note that the accent is on the second syllable, in the French way.

Ha! I knew nothing of Puccini or opera before I came to this house, though I did lead quite the Bohemian lifestyle with many boyfriends and many adventures and assignations, inspiring my name, resulting in something like 24 kittens…hence the topic of my article today. I not only celebrate my own motherhood, but my adoption by my human mom, an event that changed both of our lives as motherhood will do even without the act of giving birth.

Participating in a university study…for Mother’s Day?

photo of black cat in bed covers

Lucy Helps to Make the Bed, photo © B.E. Kazmarski

First, she and I are going to embark on a very special Mother’s Day project including myself and all my kittens we’ve kept in touch with. We’ll all be participating in a study!

My human mom wrote an article about how she came to know me and ultimately adopt me in an article, A Nice, Nice Kitty. In that article you’ll read about a kitten named Lucy* from my second or third litter of kittens who my mom ended up adopting after finding good homes for the other kittens in that litter.

I didn’t live here yet, but Lucy was the kitten who was responsible for me joining this household. Lucy unfortunately had a disease called feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, and no matter how much my mom loved her and cared for her, Lucy died at only 15 months old. My mom saw me carrying another litter of kittens in my belly—in fact, my last litter—and for many good reasons you can read about in the article mentioned above decided to take me into her house.

And for the sake of Lucy, who died so young, and for moms like my human mom, who suffer such sadness at the loss of kittens and cats of any age to this disease, we’ll be participating in a study of FIP at the University of California at Davis. We’ve just downloaded our forms and contacted the other kittens’ people, and we’ll write more about this as all of us do our cheek swabs and fill out our forms. (I’m still researching other kittens and family members before I send in the entire family tree, and discovered that the little clip of Lucy’s fur didn’t provide the right DNA for the test.~Bernadette)

I loved being a mother, but I’m such a lucky kitty now

I can’t believe I’ve gone from a loose little street cat to a happy, healthy and socially-conscious kitty participating in a university study! Unlike Mimi from La Boheme, I have gone on to live happily ever after, as should every kitty, and dog and bunny and bird and all the other animals who love to live with humans.

photo of black cat on sidewalk

Big Daddy comes for Mimi (actually coming to the door)!

But as for motherhood…I can’t deny it, I loved having kittens. I carefully chose the fathers, usually the two handsome black cats from Fifth Avenue, one tall and slender and silly and the other stockier and serious despite the little white spot on his chest, ensuring that all my children would be the same lustrous black as their parents with a mix of other physical and personality traits, and most were. Unfortunately, I loved my children so much that I also didn’t realize the world didn’t need more perfect little black kittens.

Motherhood is not for every kitty—not for most kitties!

close up photo of a black cat

Mimi tells her story

I’ve written an article listing 30 reasons why cats like me should be spayed—in fact, why all cats should be spayed except perhaps those lucky few whose people will monitor their activity and prepare for the proper adoption of the offspring.

Much as I loved being a mother I’m glad I’m spayed and can’t have any more kittens because I never realized how simply fun and enjoyable every day could be for a cat who was spayed and in a good home. Humans really recognize the royal nature of cats and enjoy indulging our every whim and we should really give them the opportunity to do that!

kittens in cat bed

The best I could do!

I’d like to tell you about the kittens I gave birth to in April 2006 including Lucy, Charlotte, Angus and Donal, and their humans, and the July 2007 litter—the Big Four, who most people who’ve been reading this blog know all too well. What mother doesn’t like to see her children become famous and successful?

Of course Lucy stayed here, and is gone but never forgotten. I see by reading mom’s e-mails that Charlotte, Angus and Donal, wish me a happy Mother’s Day, and I was so glad to see the happy photos of them come over.

She had helped to find homes for them, and she kept in touch with the people who adopted them, before she even really knew me. I like that about her, as much as I like the fact that she took me to be spayed.

blakc cat with rainbows

Lucy with rainbows in doorway.

*Bernadette says: I was very surprised, when I researched the libretto for La Boheme, that the next line in Mimi’s aria is, but my real name is Lucia.” The kitten I lost to FIP, and as Mimi tells you, the reason she came here, was named “Lucy”. As I moved Mimi and her babies from the box into the cage in the spare bedroom, I felt the strongest sense that Lucy was in the room with us, in fact turning around to look at the door, which was closed, but I had pictured it open with Lucy standing in the doorway, silhouetted by the sun on the landing. She had only been gone three weeks, it wouldn’t be unusual that I would forget she was gone in a distracted moment, but the way Mimi settled in, and the way she looked at me in that moment, I knew it wasn’t because I had forgotten. I never sensed Lucy again after that, nor felt that deep pang of loss, though those poor kittens and Mimi had to endure frequent hugs and kisses for months until I felt secure again. You’ll learn a little more about Lucy in upcoming articles, especially as we discuss FIP.